I visited the small city of Salamanca in northwestern Spain as a part of a trip to Europe in July of 2015 with two friends, Cassidy and Haley. Salamanca was our third stop on the two week trip to visit a friend studying abroad at the university there.
Salamanca was a strange but beautiful town. It is home to the fourth oldest university in the western world, which was founded in 1218. However, the city was founded before ancient Rome and became a hub for commerce when the Romans built a road through the town after conquering the Carthaginians due to its favorable location. Everything in the town was so old but well preserved that at times it seemed like a movie set.
The travel to Salamanca was nothing short of an adventure and honestly quite exhausting. I was very grateful that the Erasmus Home hostel allowed for us to arrive late at night after a complicated day of travel and offered an opportunity to do some laundry after being in France for the previous seven days.
The hostel was conveniently located in the center of town and was walking distance to everything that we wanted to see and do in Salamanca.
The Erasmus Home hostel that we stayed in had a café associated with it. As guests were were able to get free café con leche and toast in the mornings.
After a late breakfast, our first stop of the day was Plaza Mayor. Originally built for bull fighting, the plaza now acts as the city center. The perimeter of the square is lined with restaurants and shops on three sides and the city hall on one side.
We met up with our friend studying abroad to start our tour of the city (and Haley got some ice cream).
Universidad de Salamanca
Walking through the streets towards the university, the large number of tourists shops selling frog related memorabilia would be hard to miss. But fortunately thanks to a cab ride in Washington, DC the week before, I had a clue to what all of the frogs were about. My cab driver happened to have lead tours to Salamanca from Madrid during his youth in Spain. He told me that there was a hidden frog, or la rana, atop a skull in the ornate facade of the building. Can you spot it?
Catedral de Salamanca
The new cathedral construction began in the 1500s with a commission by Ferdinand V. Due to time and an earthquake, the cathedral has had two periods of reconstruction. During the restoration in 1992, the architect was inspired by the hidden la rana at the University. He included a sculpture of a faun with an ice cream cone and an astronaut on the building that has existed for nearly 500 years.
Huerto de Calixto y Melibea
I love gardens, especially ones that seem to just appear. Amidst all of these old buildings, we wandered through a gate and into a garden on the edge of the city. It had beautiful views and a lovely collection of flowers.
Casa de las Conchas
House of the Shells? Sounds like my kind of place. It was one of the more unique pieces of architecture in Salamanca, despite its neighbors with hidden frogs and astronauts. The building was completed in 1517 by a professor at the university and is covered in more than 300 shells.
Today the building is home to a public library.
Café Real is one of the restaurants located along the Plaza Mayor. We sat down at a table in the plaza at sunset and I decided to be as touristy as possible and ordered paella and sangria. Even if those orders may make more sense in southern Spain, there were still delicious in Salamanca.
On our second day in Salamanca, we walked across the Puente de Enrique Estevan to lounge in a park for awhile and to get a view of the Roman bridge. After resting in the park, we ventured back into town to the Chocolateria Valor.
I learned one very important lesson that day – melted chocolate and churros make for a perfect post-siesta afternoon snack.
On our last night in Salamanca, we decided to make one more stop before bed – 100 montaditos. It was fantastic. A montadito is a tapa-sized roll that is filled with any number of toppings. The best part was that at 100 montaditos, each of these small sandwiches were only 1 euro.
It was the perfect end to a couple of days in this historic city, with one final stroll through Plaza Mayor.